Do they like me? Another reflection.

Warning: Very stream of consciousness today.  No editing; I just need to get it out.  If I edit, I’ll never hit Publish.

It’s pretty silly.  And not in any of the readings about school leadership.  But doesn’t everyone want acceptance?  To be liked?  By students.  By parents.  By staff.

And all through the year, as I hit bumps in the road, corrected systems of operation, developed relationships, pushed us to consider our values and dreams for students, I wondered, Do they even like me?

Ultimately the work needs to be done, and I love it.  And focusing on what’s best for students helps.  I’ve got that down.  But as human beings, we crave camaraderie and fellowship.  Elementary principal can be a lonely job.  So the question would come up.  And some days I’d tell myself it didn’t matter and I didn’t care.  Not true.

There was some weird juju about my office.  Staff would come to the door to speak with me but wouldn’t cross the threshold.  Again and again it would occur.  Do I need to invite you in?  Is there some negative connotation with being seen in my office?  What was the pattern here before me that keeps them at the carpet’s edge?

Education is such heart work.  My hubby’s job isn’t anywhere near the field of education.  And it’s very difficult for him to understand what I do.  I almost had him understanding teaching after fourteen years.  Almost.  And now as site leader, a lot of what I do is even hard for him to grasp.  He leaves his work at work.  We run into my work everywhere we go.  Everywhere.

One morning in early May I had a big discovery when talking with my mentor.  Does the staff know I’m committed to our school?  Do they know I’ve made my adjustments, and I’m not looking to leave?  Remember, we didn’t choose each other.  Transfer.  Bam!  Here’s your new principal.  So this year has almost gone by, many bumps, many triumphs.  I needed to share my intentions.  My settledness.

So I did.  Second to last staff meeting.  After acknowledgements were shared.  “I want to share with you that I feel very settled here at Valley Vista.  It’s something that I couldn’t have said a few months ago and I want you all to hear me just as I’ve come to realize it myself.  I’m not planning on going anywhere.  I am enjoying my work here, I love coming to work everyday, our community is wonderful and I believe we have some amazing work to do together.”  Awkward pause.  A few teary eyes around the table.  Did I feel a collective sigh from the group?  Perhaps my imagination.  But it felt good to say it out loud.

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New VV Logo Sticker! It’s a beautiful tree full of our values for student learning.

I needed to consider my Do they like me? question from a different angle.  Staff is wondering the same thing: Does she like us?  Will she stay?  Are we going to go through another change?  I’m sure a few of them are indifferent or perhaps wish I’d take a hike.  But the vast majority are appreciative of the work we’ve done thus far, my availability and approachability.  Students are awesome, the most flexible of all.  Parents have shared positive feedback as well.  But teachers and support staff keep the ship afloat.  WE keep the ship afloat.

So now to rejuvenate and recharge.  August is around the corner!

 

 

Grab some inspiration… Gimme 5!

I love the blog challenges that float around Twitter.  Not only am I inspired by what I read but I love them for times when my mind needs the structure of a blog challenge.  Thanks #principalsinaction for the inspiration and motivation!  Here goes!

ONE of my biggest struggles this school year.

Building relationships and being patient enough to not take on too much because I KNOW relationships are key.  In a nutshell.  A new school means meeting a whole new staff, student body and community.  It’s overwhelming.  And for me, I feel like building relationships is a strength but I struggle with jumping to other big ticket items that need attention without giving enough time to building quality, trusting, honest relationships.  I’m excited to get started!  It’s a good problem to have, but I rein myself in constantly to say, “You just got here.  Relax.  There’s lots of time.”  It’s the story of education; the push and pull of priorities, crisis, initiatives, demands, desires.  But none of that will ever come to much without solid people behind them.  People who trust in one another, trust the leader and the plan, feel supported and heart, agree that kids are the center of our work and are willing to get their hands dirty together.

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TWO accomplishments that I’m proud of this school year.

I’d go back to my ONE biggest struggle since it’s also one of my proudest accomplishments.  I made a huge point of spending time with staff, all of them.  From classroom teachers to itinerant teachers, from one hour a day noon duty supervisors to one day a week Occupational Therapist, from our Therapeutic Spec Ed classroom to child care.  No matter how much time you spend on campus with our students, you are part of the community.  Your voice matters, your ideas need to be heard, your participation is vital.

My second accomplishment is being present with students and in classrooms.  Teachers no longer stop teaching when I walk in.  Students are comfortable telling me about their lesson or project.  I’ve got 85% of the students’ names down pat.  A few just simply aren’t sticking but I don’t give myself away.  Thank goodness for name tags and ipads where I can catch a glimpse of a name when I’m stumped.  Hugs, high fives and “How’s your day going?” are huge for me.  I love that part of the job most.

THREE goals before year’s end

We’ve made a concerted effort to rejuvenate our garden program this year.  It’s very exciting.  Quite honestly, the program never went away, but we need to rethink our goals, how to integrate without interrupting and keep things growing and thriving.  NGSS are helping a lot.  We’re reconvening a Garden Committee with members from the early garden years at our school (2000-2001).  One of my goals is to serve salad from our garden at least three times before the year is out.  Student planted, harvested, washed, chopped and served.  School to Fork.

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School rules are so old school.  We’ve taken on crafting school wide behaviors, and they’re almost ready for prime time.  It’ll be awesome to be on the same page about student expectations in various areas of the school.  What it looks like rather than a list of no’s and don’ts.  The disciplinary “Think Sheet” has already been revamped to a multi-flow Thinking Map to get kids reflecting and planning ahead around behavior incidents.  It’s got a good feel. Less about the consequence and more about the plan for next time.  Yes, the consequence exists but that’s not where students and I expend a lot of energy.  We spend much more time on practicing and rehearsing the right approach or strategy.  All about teaching and learning!

RtI is overwhelming.  We’ve got some decent systems in place right now but we’re not based enough in programs nor are we fully utilizing all specialists on campus.  By year’s end, I’d be very happy if we came to some basic agreements school wide around ELD strategies and which specialist handles which aspect of RtI need.  It would be a bonus if we had a list of programs to explore.

FOUR reasons I remain in education despite the challenges.

I love my job!  I can’t imagine doing anything else.

For all the challenges, negative media and criticism, we are preparing future citizens.  It’s such important work.  If you can’t stand the heat… you know.  But if you can weather it, there’s nothing more gratifying that talking to kids about their future.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

I want to work at the Nike store.

That sound fun.  Do you like Nike shoes?

Yeah.  They’re really cool.

You know someone has to design all those cool shoes.  Have you thought you might do that?

<silence>  I guess I hadn’t thought of that.

Well, you should.  I bet you’ve got a lot of good ideas.

<silence>  I do have some ideas.  Maybe I could do that.

Future-thinking.  Especially for my munchkins that struggle, that don’t see a lot of value in the work they do at school.  What’s next?  Dream big.

The third reason?  The negative people just don’t have anything better to do than beat up on education.  I don’t have time for that.  I don’t have energy to waste on trying to convince them otherwise.  I’ll just prove our good work every day at school.  I’ll keep sharing the awesomeness of teaching and learning through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I’m WAY too cup half full to let the negativity get me down.  There’s way too much good stuff going on.

And finally, I feel constantly buoyed up by my PLN.  Groups like #principalsinaction, #leadwild and #strataproblems keep me excited and motivated.  I stay with this crazy career in education because I’m surrounded by other enthusiastic leaders and teachers who don’t give up and celebrate all The Awesome.  I love this tribe.

FIVE people I hope will take the challenge

Jennifer Kloczko because she’s a huge inspiration!  Good news is, she already posted hers!  Here it is!

Amy Fadeji since she and I can always use a blog nudge.  You’ve been officially nudged, girl!

Eric Saibel because he’s helped me a ton this year with my transition and trying to keep perspective and not drive myself (or others) crazy.

Todd Feinberg since he’s super busy being an amazing principal, dad and hubby.  I’d love to read your take on this blog challenge, Todd.

Mike Taylor because he’s experienced a major transition this year too.  And he’s ROCKED it!